Series: Todah Living: The Transforming Power of Thanksgiving
Yadah (praise) is a conceptual thing that implies an awareness of who it is before whom we bow.
It is to be expressed with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. The essence of praise (yadah) is the whole person giving whole worship to God, together as his people.
Whether I’m singing a chorus or a hymn I need to concentrate on the words, the content of what I am singing.
Whether I’m dancing or waving a flag I need to connect my movement with the words and content of what is being sung.
Whether I kneel in quiet adoration or stand with hands and voice raised, my focus must be on confessing, declaring, and proclaiming who God is and what he has done.
Then your praise is acceptable to him, then it has transformative power.
If we grasp the essence of biblical praise, worship, and thanksgiving as I have explained to you, then some exciting implications emerge. For instance, there are other important expressions of praise, which we usually don’t think of in those terms. Let me give you three examples.
(1) Study is one of the highest forms of worship
Do you have a better feeling now for why that is? Study can be a matter of affirming (acknowledging, focusing) on who God is and what he has done. You are looking to God’s Word to know Him, to learn how to respond. My seminar, The Highest Form of Worship is foundational to anybody who wishes to have a biblical, a Hebraic perspective.
When you realize that your act of study can be an act of worship, you are thinking biblically. In an attitude of reverence, you read what he has done, you acknowledge his attributes, you praise his actions. Even as you hear these words right now, you can connect them with your heart’s desire to know God and make him known. Gratitude grows when we become aware that he is doing just that!
In our public worship gatherings, the reading, proclaiming, and confessing of God’s Word are acts of praise, at least they should be.
In the synagogue in Jesus’ day, the public reading of the Hebrew Scriptures was the service’s focus. There were as many as seven appointed readers in every synagogue service; an extensive portion of the Word of God would be read and commented upon.
We tend to think of praise exclusively in terms of music, which is usually the first part of our service. When that is done, we enter into the second part, teaching. The result is an artificial distinction. We need to recapture the importance of praise expressed through the acts of reading and teaching, hearing and responding to God’s living Word.
Justin Martyr described an early church gathering some one hundred years after Jesus. Basically, it consisted of two things. The first was the reading and proclaiming of the apostles’ and the prophet’s memoirs (in other words, God’s Word). The second was the communal taking of the Lord’s Supper. Acts 2:42 tells us that was precisely the priority when the first church met to worship. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
(2) Taking the Lord’s supper is an act of praise and worship
How often do we think of taking the Lord’s Supper as an act of praise and thanksgiving? But it is. And that is the power of it if you would but receive it that way. The word Eucharist (which other traditions use) comes from the Greek to rejoice (chairo). It is the word for thanksgiving.
How can this be an act of praise? Because when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we re-enact, we remember who Jesus was and what he did. He was our Passover Lamb, and because of his death, burial, and resurrection—by the shedding of his blood—we have the full provisions of atonement. The Lord’s Supper is the most powerful healing service available to the church. It is the most potent act of praise if we have but the right attitude about it.
What does Paul say about this? In 1 Cor 11:26, he writes, “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim (show forth, herald, declare, confess) the Lord’s death until he comes.” What is the Hebrew root of praise, worship, and thanksgiving? Yadah. What is the core meaning of yadah? Professing, proclaiming, and declaring. And every time you participate (you have fellowship in his body and in his blood) in the Lord’s Supper, you are praising Jesus till he comes!
3. Confessing is an act of praise and worship
We know from Justin Martyr that before people partook of the Lord’s Supper they confessed their sins. On many occasions, this word yadah is used in the biblical text to speak of the confession of sins—individually and corporately (nationally). Here is an example from Psalm 32:5.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess [yadah] my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
This is an important element of who God is and what he does. You see, the LORD is eager for us to confess because he is eager to forgive.
What about the sins of a nation? Leviticus 16 gives detailed instructions concerning the Day of Atonement. One thing that was to happen on that solemn day was a public confession of the sins of the people, and of the nation (vs.20-22). It was an integral part of the Day of Atonement and God’s reconciliation of a people to himself.
The point is this; God desires that we acknowledge and confess our sins before him. Confession is an act of repentance. When we do that, he is able to forgive and to heal. “If we confess our sins,” says John, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He also goes on to say, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:9-10)
James talks about this in the context of healing. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” This is a very Jewish way of thinking because it is biblical. Unfortunately, so many of us have missed out on the power of confessing our sins. It is another powerful expression of praise that we miss out on due to a confusion between what praise is and how it is expressed.
Thanksgiving was a way of life for the first church.
“Be thankful. Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice. Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore his audio seminars.